Book Review: 'Coming Home For Christmas' by Helen Pryke

Although the subtitle is ‘A Haunting Christmas Tale’, this is far from being scary or spooky. Instead, is it a positive and inspirational story full of Christmas Eve spirit. 

Without being overly sentimental, this story is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The reader is invited to witness a very special moment through the thoughts and memories of the central character, and is encouraged to reflect on what makes a particular date or a relationship unique and memorable. 

The story is beautifully told, wistful rather than morbid, and imbued with love and devotion. It is a short story, read in less than 15 minutes, but one that lingers in the thoughts of the reader long beyond that. 

Book Review: ‘Midnight Lasagne and Other Stories’ by Maria R. Riegger

‘Midnight Lasagne’ is a very enjoyable collection of varied and original Christmas-themed stories that make relaxing reading for the holiday season. 

Each story offers a different perspective or experience of Christmas, from that of a single mother to a ten-year old kid whose first love is video games. 

These stories are perfect for filling in quiet moments in the busy lead-up to Christmas.

Book Review: ‘The Holly and The Ivy’ by J.A. Clement

A delightful fantasy tale that follows on from ‘A Sprig Of Holly’. The characters are warm and engaging, their interactions reflecting quite realistically both the tenderness of a close-knit family and the tensions that quickly develop when a child starts to misbehave. 

The story is very enjoyable, and even though it is part of a series, it stands alone very well and makes complete sense without having read the first book. 

This short book is a great read for individuals or families in the lead-up to the December solstice and Christmas. 

Book Review: 'Winter's Curse' by April L Wood

‘Winter’s Curse’ is a very original and engaging YA paranormal romance novel in which Winter must overcome not just one, but two curses, that stand between her and future happiness. 

The story is well crafted, with some intriguing twists and turns and a few surprises along the way. Winter and her friends are likeable characters, while those who work against her are clearly intended to be disliked. The magical clans, their qualities and the social structures and rules by which they live are original and interesting, which adds another layer of complexity to the story and helps to drive the complications of the plot. 

This is a book that reminds the reader that real friendship and true love transcend the boundaries of class, heritage or alliance that people try to put on them, and that it’s more important to choose what is right than to settle for what others might decide or impose. 

Book Review: ‘Murder and Mistletoe’ by AR DeClerck

‘Murder and Mistletoe’ is a very good cozy mystery set in 1936, first on the Paris-Bordeaux train and then in Bordeaux itself. The very confident and classy Franny Calico is a seasoned amateur sleuth who finds herself investigating a mystery that threatens not only her own safety, but that of others near and dear to her. 

The story is well crafted and develops at a good pace, keeping both Franny and the reader intrigued. The characters are engaging and interesting, and there are sufficient touches of late 1930s styling and glamour to make the settings and plot believable. 

Easily read in less than 90 minutes, this novella delivers most enjoyable reading, ideal for readers busy with preparations for Christmas and end of year celebrations. 

Book Review: ‘With A Twist Of The Nib’ by Karen J Carlisle

This book offers a compilation of original flash fiction and short stories in different genres, each with a twist at the end. The stories are all imaginative and clever, and varied enough for the collection to remain interesting throughout. 

This would be a good collection for people who struggle to find time to commit to a longer story or full novel, as they can be read and enjoyed in a coffee break or when brief opportunities present themselves.

Book Review: ‘Sentinels of Oz’ by JB Trepagnier

‘Sentinels of Oz’ is Book 1 of the Emerald City Academy series, a reverse harem adventure set in the not-so-wonderful-anymore land of Oz.

Francesca and Saffron, daughters of the witches of the East and the West, embody the struggle of those who deal with notoriety in the family and trying to claim what is rightfully theirs, despite the prejudice and judgement of most of the populous. In this, the author gives the readers an intriguing perspective, from which Dorothy and her friends are not necessarily heroes they have been made out to be. 

The characters are quirky and highly individual, but also relatable to readers. Each has strengths and flaws, motivations and priorities. The central characters also share a mission and a desire for justice, which binds them together and positions the reader alongside them. I really enjoyed the snark and sarcasm of Francesca, and I appreciated the fact that even though the four central characters had known one another all their lives, they could still disordered other. 

The story is a highly engaging blend of fantasy and mystery which draws the reader in and keeps them guessing to the end.The ending balances the resolution of some questions with the development of others, making the reader both satisfied with the conclusion and keen for the next book in the series.

This book should not, however, be mistaken for a children’s story. The story contains adult and sexual content which is definitely not appropriate for younger readers. 

Overall, this is a fun and enjoyable read.